In The Garden

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

logo In The Garden 2October … heat … sun … and in the garden, time to mulch! Try to shield all bare soil from the direct sun. You can use tree bark, leaves, stones, even shredded newspaper. But the best is to plant a groundcover. A groundcover plant is an effective protection and is usually the most attractive to look at. Groundcovers are many and various. You can use ajuga reptans atropupurea, the purple-leaved perennial plant with a blue flower spike that will spread fairly rapidly over a patch of soil. Its common name is carpet bugle. And it is happiest in full sun but will also grow well in light shade.  Ajuga should be split and re-planted after 2 to 3 years. Another choice is the simple chlorophytum, or Hen-and-chickens; it may have green or striped leaves and easily covers ground under trees as well as in sun. It needs little water.


Ivy, especially the dark green large-leaved ivy, makes a striking groundcover on slopes or under trees but will also grow in full sun. It should be watered well once a week. Pennyroyal is a good choice to plant between old railway sleepers or paving as it has a lovely minty fragrance when you step on it. It is very low and flat and covers the soil completely. It needs water and occasionally needs re-planting. Thyme can also be used in this way and forms a dense mat of vegetation. I highly recommend liriope, also called lily turf, for a maintenance free, long-lasting perennial that goes on and on without any attention needed. It is also very attractive, either the green or the variegated striped leaf forming a grass-like mound about 30cm. high. It has a short insignificant spike of tiny bell-shaped flowers resembling lily-of-the-valley without the smell!


Mondo grass with its dark green fronds also seems to go on for ever and will grow well in semi-shade.  It is small and neat but rather dull. Tradescantia or Wandering Jew comes in many varieties and one of the best and easiest is zebrina, with striped leaves. The purple setcreasea can look wonderful in deep shade if given good soil and frequent water. In full sun, one of the best options is erigeron. It quickly covers the ground and is continuously in flower with tiny white daisy blooms. It is very long-lasting and does not need to be split but can be given a haircut if it gets too big. I also use the little pink-flowered crassula in hot, dry places.


But let’s get back to mulch. Leave your leaves where they fall if you are short of water. A lawn covered with fallen leaves does not look “manicured” but is far better than dry brown grass if you have no water. When you do rake, please use a rubber rake. Metal and plastic rakes catch on the grass runners and yank them out of the ground. In the vegetable garden you can use a green manure, especially comfrey leaves. This wonderful plant should be in every garden where vegetables are grown. It is extremely easy to propagate as it will grow a new plant from a broken piece of root.  The leaves can be chopped off the plant and it will re-grow. Cover the soil with the leaves and as it breaks down it will supply extra minerals to the soil.


If you have enough compost, spread a fine layer about 1 cm thick over the lawn. Don’t forget to leave the sprinkler on the compost heap once a week to keep it damp. Grass requires nourishment but avoid Compound D and Urea as they kill the earthworms. Earthworms are magic in the garden! Invest in an earthworm farm (Ecobiz Farms – Ruth – or 0977 771-172) and transform your kitchen waste into the richest form of compost you could ever wish to have.

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